The Wildcat football team will compete for the first time as a fully Div. I program when it travels to Albuquerque to face the University of New Mexico on Saturday.
The team faces a Lobos squad that has appeared in the New Mexico Bowl the past two seasons, losing to Arizona in 2015 and beating the University of Texas-San Antonio in 2016.
Senior linebacker Sam Denmark, who needs 63 tackles to become the all-time career leader in tackles for ACU, said that the team can expect New Mexico to come out firing.
“Their option hits everyone pretty fast in games.” Denmark said. “You see guys struggling on the first couple of drives, because they’re not use to the option and the speed of it because it is near impossible to simulate that speed of the option in practice with scouts. So we do expect them to come out firing high, and we gotta keep attacking.”
The Wildcats finished at 2-9 in their 2016 campaign while the Lobos closed out at 9-4.
Denmark and senior kicker Nik Grau, who were each named first team preseason all-Southland, headline the returning starters.
Head Coach Adam Dorrel, a three-time Div. II national champion, said he thinks the program is prepared for the first game.
“I feel like our program has grown since we got here in January,” Dorrel said. “If you’re seeing growth in the program and your team is getting better, that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
New Mexico finished first in rushing in all of Div. I last year, racking up 4550 total yards, and the team returns two players who contributed well to that in redshirt senior QB Lamar Jordan and redshirt junior running back Tyrone Owens.
Jordan threw for 604 yards with six touchdown passes and ran for 658 yards and three touchdowns while Owens became the 19th player in school history to run for 1,000 yard in a season, running for 1,084 yards and scoring seven touchdowns.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Central Time and can be heard on Abilene’s 98.1 FM or ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team.